WASHINGTON – The silking process in the 2013 corn crop advanced rapidly last week and is now only four percentage points behind the 75 percent five-year average, the US Department of Agriculture said in its latest Crop Progress report.

In the 18 main corn-growing states, silking as of July 28 stood at 71 percent, up sharply from 43 percent the previous week. Silking indicates the key pollination process that determines the number of kernels per ear is under way and is sensitive to extreme heat and dryness. Weather in the Corn Belt recently has been relatively cool and wet, which agronomists view as favorable for the pollination process.

A total of 8 percent of the crop was in the dough stage as of July 28, the USDA said, down from a five-year average of 17 percent. Because of persistent rainfall and cool spring temperatures, the crop experienced planting delays, which consequently pushed development behind average.

But mostly favorable weather since planting has maintained mostly good to excellent crop condition ratings. The USDA said 63 percent of the crop in the 18 states was rated good to excellent as of July 28 and 11 percent was very poor to poor, the same as the previous week and far better than a year earlier when only 24 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent while 48 percent was rated poor to very poor.

A total of 65 percent of the soybean crop in the 18 main soybean-growing states was blooming in the latest week, up from 46 percent blooming the previous week but behind 74 percent as the five-year average, the USDA said. Twenty per cent of the crop was setting pods as of July 28, down from 34 percent as the five-year average but up from 8 percent as of July 21, the USDA reported.

The soybean crop’s condition ratings deteriorated slightly with 63 percent rated good to excellent, down one percentage point from a week earlier, and 9 percent was rated very poor to poor, up a percentage point from the previous week, the USDA said. As with corn, the soybean crop fared far better than a year ago when 29 percent was rated good to excellent and 37 percent was rated poor to very poor.